Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Heart of darkness vs Things fall apart (Second draft)


          Things Fall Apart and Heart of Darkness shows how differently two cultures can perceive greed, corruption, and power. The authors experience two complete different views due to their particular scenario. Conrad, the author of Heart of Darkness, focuses on the European side of the African story and the way he experienced slavery. Achebe, writer of Things Fall Apart, describes the simple, modern life of the African’s while comparing it to the unreasonable Europeans. 
            In Heart of Darkness, Conrad tells the story of Marlow, the captain of a steamboat on a journey down the Congo River in the middle of Africa. Throughout his journey, he unravels the truth behind the ivory trades.  Ivory is almost made out as wild gold and the colonists work the slaves to death so they can maximize their production. On page 91, a description of the importance of Ivory is given: “The word ‘ivory’ rang in the air, was whispered, was sighed. You would think they were praying to it.” Ivory had replaced every thought of the colonist’s minds. They longed for the wealth and the riches that would be waiting for them back home, that every action they made, they thought was justified. 
            This book shows how the Europeans conquered and ruled over their colonies. The region of the Congo had been taken over not as a colony for the Dutch, but for King Leopold himself. He believed that this colony would bring him an enormous amount of wealth. A biography site stated the following about King Leopold II’s reign on the Congo:
Over the next 23 years Léopold will amass a huge personal fortune by exploiting the Congo directly and by leasing concessions to private companies prepared to pay him 50% of their profits. The period will witness some of the worst atrocities ever committed on the African continent. However, Léopold will never visit the region, ruling instead by decree from Belgium.
            Heart of Darkness also shows how the European colonialists wanted power over the land just like the Dutch. They ruled the people, made their own laws, and ignored their own corruption or the inhuman treatment of the slaves. On page 83 of Heart of Darkness the following is stated: “Brought from all the recesses of the coast in all the legality of time contracts, lost in uncongenial surroundings, fed on unfamiliar food, they sickened, became inefficient, and were then allowed to crawl away and rest.” This is a description of what Marlow notices along the river of the Congo. It is shown to the reader how colonialism not only enslaved the natives, but drove them into hard labor onto the point in which they started dying off from sickness and starvation.
            Conrad described power as that of humiliation from another group.  For the Europeans to have their power, the Africans had to suffer and be ruled over.  The Greed that they showed was completely selfish and in know way benefited the African way of life.  Overall Conrad depicted the action of Colonists as something of pure self-centeredness, and they ruled with an iron fist that was stained with the shine of ivory and blood of thousands of workers.
            While Conrad shows the side of European greed and power, Achebe displays the view of an Africans and their own greed and power.  These two forms of greed and power differ in the purpose, the outcome, and the deliverance of the ones in charge differs greatly.
            Achebe shows that while the Africans still had a form of greed, they used it to benefit the tribe and the balance of peace. The tribe had “titles”, similar to the social statuses in America, which were ranked. The higher ranked title you had, the better you looked to others and the more of a “man” you were seen as. If man of the village wanted or needed to obtain a good status within his village (power) then he would try to obtain as many titles as he possibly could. What is different from the Europeans is that instead of just taking what they wanted, they had to earn it, and it was performed in a way that did not hinder another’s way of life. On page 6 Achebe states the following: “And now he was going to take the Idemili title, the third highest in the land. It was a very expensive ceremony and he was gathering all his resources together.” In this quote, it is explained how a man wanted to take a title, yet he was not going to take what he wanted, instead he was going to pull his resources that way he could earn it. In this way, more money was going toward the tribe by the prices of titles and if a person wanted a title they would have to be a productive farmer to earn the money, also benefitting the tribe.
            Power was a completely different concept to the Africans than to the Europeans as described by Achebe. According to Achebe, Africans seen power as something everyone could earn within their lifetime.  The following was stated in Things Fall Apart about how the Europeans and Africans sources of power were different:
They asked who the king of the village was, but the villagers told them that there was no king. ‘We have men of high title and the chief priests and the elders,’ they said.
            While the Europeans had a monarchy for power, such as King Leopold II, the Africans had many people for power who were respected in the tribe similar to the democracy that American government is based upon in today’s society. Power was not something of complete authority, but based on the tribe, its beliefs, its customs, and its religion.  Power was not something that ruled based upon a view, but something that kept tradition alive and kept the peace within the tribe.
            Achebe also displayed that Africans did not believe in taking land that did not rightfully belong to them. When a neighboring tribe is wiped out in Things Fall Apart it is seen as an abomination and truly baffles many. The following is stated on page 176 about that tribe: “They would go to Umuru and bring the soldiers, and we would be like Abame.” The village, Abame, had been destroyed when the Africans had killed a white man and tied his horse to a tree in their village. While the Europeans found they had the power to colonize other people’s land, Achebe showed that the Africans respected their land and territories while also respecting other people’s land.
            Achebe describes the African way of life as one that is ruled by religious power.  He describes that the Africans base their rules, customs, attitudes, and their overall lives around their gods.  To this extent greed for them was something simple and can even be respected.  During an individuals life period they tried to earn titles and personal achievements, which was their driving force and could be seen as greed.  However, this was a form of greed that had no direct affect on another individual.  This is a main difference between the views of the authors.
            In his critique of Heart of Darkness, Achebe showed how he felt about what Conrad said about Africa. The following is stated in the critique: “The point of my observations should be quite clear by now, namely that Joseph Conrad was a thoroughgoing racist.” He believed that Conrad made people believe that Africa was a dark place with no civilization. He also believed that Conrad did not give a voice to the African’s, making them seem like heathens.
            However, this was not the true purpose of Conrad’s book.  In reality Conrad was simply providing the reader with his real life experience of the Congo and how slavery turned these people into savages.  He meant to show how greed and power affected the European colonial system in the Congo. In fact, throughout the book, Conrad was saying worse about the Europeans than the Africans and felt pity toward the Africans. What Achebe saw was simply Conrad’s perception of his environment during this time. Because the two men were raised differently, in different cultures the beliefs of both men are bound to differ.  Which is brought out in the differences of their novels.
            The truth of way things really are cannot be brought out in just one story or book. Just because one person may believe something, does not mean it is true for another group of people. Both Achebe and Conrad display this in their works. Throughout the novels, greed and power are displayed in the two different types of people. While the Europeans were cold and controlling, the Africans had a more subtle approach.  The views of both authors have to be balanced by their personal experiences, beliefs, and willingness to dismiss personal beliefs for the facts.  The difference of the men is what truly leads to the difference of the two novels.
Works cited
Achebe, Chinua. “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’”. Massachusetts Review. 18. 1997. Rpt. In Heart of Darkness, An Authoritative Text, background and Sources Criticism. 1961. 3rd ed. Ed. Robert Kimbrough, London: W. W Norton and Co. 1988, pp. 251-261.
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. New York: Anchor books, 1994. Print.
Boyd, Clark. “’Blood Cell Phones’ Fuel War, Crime and Human Rights Abuses”. 30 July 2010. Discovery News. Web. 13 February 2012.
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. New York: Signet Classics, 1997. Print
Harris, Bruce. “King Leopold II” More or Less. 19 August 2003. Web. 15 February 2012.
Hutcheon, Stephen. “Out of Africa: the blood tantalum in your mobile phone”. 8 May 2009 The Sydney Morning Herald. Web. 13 February 2012
Liukkonen, Petri. "Chinua Achebe." Www.kirjasto.sci.fi. Kirjasto.sci.fi, 2008. Web. 21 Feb. 2012. <http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/achebe.htm>.
Wyer, Conor. "Two Readings of Heart of Darkness." Qub.ac.uk. Queen's University of Belfast, 13 May 2001. Web. 15 Feb. 2012.
<http://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/SchoolofEnglish/imperial/africa/Conrad-readings.htm>.


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